Most of Ukip’s members and activists are “toe-rags” who would steal people’s bikes, left-wing journalist Paul Mason has said.
Ukip said the comments show “the radical metropolitan Left” think those considering ditching Labour for the Eurosceptic party “are scum”.
The party is trying to get its leader Paul Nuttall elected to Stoke Central in next week’s by-election and poses the biggest threat to Labour, in what has been a safe seat for its entire existence.
Mason was speaking at an event about populism, organised by Left-wing media organisation Novara Media, which Guardian columnist Zoe Williams and Green Party politician Sian Berry.
Near the start of the 96-minute talk, he said “most of the Ukip people are either people who haven’t voted or have flipped in a radical way from Labour. They are toe-rags, basically. They are the bloke who nicks your bike”.
As the audience laughed, he said: “No, seriously, that’s who it is. It’s the bloke who does all the anti-social things.”
Paul Mason’s comment:
“Most of the UKIP people are either people who haven’t voted or have flipped in a radical way from Labour. They are toe-rags, basically. They are the bloke who nicks your bike.
“No, seriously, that’s who it is. It’s the bloke who does all the anti-social things, who were made into heroes by Thatcherism and then they kind of got sidelined.
“We have to say to them, a lot of them are not poor. Certainly all the Trumpoids I met in Washington, people who threatened to get their guns out to shoot me, were not poor.
“What they were was experts in how much black people’s clothes cost. They obsessed with how much a New Era hat costs. They drive an SUV, a banged up one. It’s the same in Britain. They’ll be driving a car. They’ll have a job. But they’re obsessed with the micro-hierarchy of their disappointment.”
The controversy came as the party’s immigration spokesman John Bickley apologised for retweeting a cartoon that said “If you want a Jihadi for a neighbour, vote Labour”, which recalled a racist slogan from the 1964 election.
Ukip, which has tried to promote itself as speaking for disenchanted Labour voters, who back Brexit, said Mason’s remark “lifted the lid on what the radical Left think”.
Patrick O’Flynn, the former Daily Express journalist turned Ukip MEP, said: “Paul Mason has lifted the lid on what the radical Left think about long-time Labour voters who have lost faith with that party and moved across to Ukip.
“He thinks they are ‘toe-rags’, presumably for feeling a sense of patriotism, for feeling concerned about open door immigration and for supporting Brexit.
“Any voters who care about these issues but were pondering whether to still vote Labour have their answer.
“Mr Mason and the radical metropolitan Left think they are scum. We in Ukip understand and share their concerns and will always treat them with respect.”
Mason declined to comment.
Voters in Stoke Central go to the polls on February 20.
Labour have held the seat since its creation in 1950 but Ukip hopes to cash in on Labour’s struggles to articulate a clear position on Brexit.